My Christmas routines are so predictable that my children and grandchildren could probably give you my entire holiday schedule with hardly a glitch!
Of course it will begin with a mad rush to have corners of the house clean which I have ignored all year! It is not as though I am trying to impress anyone; my family—our major house guests at Christmas—have seen our house in all stages of Life and cleanliness (or lack thereof)! I will dislodge tiny spiders who have taken possession of high corners and I will dust baseboards behind beds and chests that have carried on a life undisturbed by me for many months. It's the Christmas routine!
Then the cooking will begin. I'll bake some Swedish rye and maybe cardamom bread, my traditional family cookies, and inevitably try a new recipe borrowed from a friend. There will be a ham and turkey, rice pudding and chocolate cake to be prepared.
The decorating starts with dragging up boxes from the garage and storage closet, checking last year's lights, and arranging each set of decorations to adorn its own particular room (because Swedish tradition demands that every room be decorated.)
At last I will carefully remove from its plastic protection, my own little "Brigadoon"—the tiny village that has for many years been the central and probably most enjoyed part of our decorations. The village began long ago as a small group of houses, before "Christmas villages" were popular, and through the years we have added a strange collection of unmatched houses from all over the world. There are little wooden fairytale houses, English cottages, lighted porcelain houses, Dutch townhouses and Austrian houses, pierced brass buildings, painted metal houses, castles, the usual assortment of small china houses (made in—of course—China), churches, schools, shops, a mill, a barn, a tiny lake and a carousel. There is a little toy wooden train and a tiny creche set from Germany that sits in the village square. The minute individuals that people my fantasy village were originally designed to enhance an N-scale train set; the various tiny cars (unromantically called Micro-Machines by the company which designed them for the entertainment of little boys) sit right alongside a small English double-decker bus and a miniature "antique" car.
We know perfectly well that all the people and cars and houses are not in perfect proportion to one another. A fantasy world does not require such distinctions in order to be perfectly satisfying.
In some of the quiet moments of Christmas, I gaze longingly at my village and wonder what it would be like to live in such a quiet little place that never seems to he disturbed year after year. Although grandchildren and small grandnieces and nephews do sometimes "drive" a tiny car dangerously up or down its Styrofoam hills, there arc no earthquakes or fires or floods or tornadoes to mar the peace. The little plastic people do not change, do not grow old (at least not visibly) and although one or two "people" have disappeared over the years, the imitation life of this imitation world is serene.
Why, do you suppose, are "houses" so important a decorating motif for Christmas? Can it be because we know in our hearts that Christmas is about coming home?
An amazing concept, when you realize that Christmas really began with the strangest and longest journey away from home that God or man could have ever taken! Our limited human insight cannot even fathom that dreadful love-motivated choice that took the Lord of the Universe away from His beloved Father, away from the adoration of angels, away from the beauty and perfection of eternal glory.
We can hardly picture anyone willingly moving from mansions to slums, but the contrast of Jesus Christ coming from the sinlessness of Heaven to share in our humanity and to take the awfulness of our sin upon Himself and to pay the penalty of our sin for us, this boggles the mind.
Did I say Christmas was about coming home? It is. For Jesus Christ's journey from human birth to physical death was for one reason alone, in order that you and I could COME HOME—to eternal glory, to live with Him forever!
All over the world, at Christmas time, families go to amazing lengths in order to come home for the holidays. But home is not the house we grew up in, the place where our loved ones are gathered; it is not even the little "nest" we may have made for ourselves in a dorm room, a retirement home, or a breathtaking lake cottage. Many of us have learned by age and experience that one's feelings of "belonging," of being safe or loved or valued may not come even when the stage has been perfectly planned. There has to be something more.
When my friend Kathy was dying of cancer we commented on the beautiful view of Lookout Mountain through the hospital window, and someone murmured that Chattanooga was such a beautiful city in which to live. Kathy smiled and said, "Chattanooga is not important to me anymore." She was already looking toward Heaven; she was getting ready to go Home!
Maybe this is a Christmas when you do not get to go "home" for the holidays. Or perhaps home no longer feels like home because some beloved person will not be there. Our image of what home was supposed to be may have been destroyed by divorce or death or distance.
Well, take heart; we can be "home" for Christmas if we have learned that the One who makes any place home has never left us. When our hearts are at rest in Him, the significance of Christmas is complete.
"For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, or angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord," Romans 8:38, 39.
Christmas is about coming home!